Readersforum's Blog

December 13, 2012

The evolution of African pulp fiction

Lurid cover essential: Jungle Jim

Lurid cover essential: Jungle Jim


Sean O’Toole traces the genre from its current incarnation back to the golden age of the genre amid high apartheid and African independence.

The last hours of Muammar Gaddafi’s life were ingloriously spent hiding in a drainage ditch on the outskirts of his hometown of Sirte. What did the former Libyan leader do and think as he unsuspectingly awaited his executioners in that makeshift bunker? It is an ample ­scenario for fiction writers.

In the imagination of young Nigerian author Iheoma Nwachukwu, writing in issue 12 of Jungle Jim, an irreverent monthly showcase of new African pulp fiction, the brotherly leader had sex with a bodyguard, a woman named Hana — “a quick one before her shift ends”.

Published in May, a year after ­Jungle Jim launched in Cape Town, Nwachukwu’s contribution is a lurid piece of agitprop that melds authorial conjecture with historical fact. Presented in the form of a taped soliloquy, Escape to Hell portrays Gaddafi in an introspective mood.

“Am I crazy because I’m horny in war?” Gaddafi thinks out loud. He also contemplates his mortality, reminisces about the executions he ordered and fumes at the ingratitude of the Libyan people.

“I gave them free electricity, go in the cities and look! They pay nothing!” he shouts. “Libya has no external debt! I did it! Libya has foreign reserves of $50-billion!” For proof, Gaddafi instructs the reader: “Look in your computers! Don’t be fooled!”

I asked Jenna Cato Bass, a twentysomething filmmaker and Jungle Jim’s publisher-editor, why she opted for the retro A5 print format when history points towards the inevitability of computers, or online publishing.

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